Friday, April 25, 2014

Born in the USA

I often think of Ambrose Bierce's definition of Patriotism from the Devil's Dictionary when ever I see someone who "wraps himself in the flag":

“Patriotism, n. Combustible rubbish ready to the torch of any one ambitious to illuminate his name. In Dr. Johnson's famous dictionary patriotism is defined as the last resort of a scoundrel. With all due respect to an enlightened but inferior lexicographer I beg to submit it is the first.”

There are a few reasons I would mention this, but this comes from the NRA's using the song at their national convention not realising the actual significance of the song.

It is one of the most misinterpreted songs ever. Most people think it is a patriotic song about American pride, when it actually cast a shameful eye on how America treated its Vietnam veterans. Springsteen considers it one of his best songs, but it bothers him that it is so widely misinterpreted. With the rollicking rhythm, enthusiastic chorus, and patriotic album cover, it is easy to think this has more to do with American pride than Vietnam shame.

Springsteen talked about this in a 2005 interview with National Public Radio. Said Bruce: "This was when the Republicans first mastered the art of co-opting anything and everything that seemed fundamentally American, and if you were on the other side, you were somehow unpatriotic. I make American music, and I write about the place I live and who I am in my lifetime. Those are the things I'm going to struggle for and fight for."
Speaking of how the song was misinterpreted, he added: "In my songs, the spiritual part, the hope part is in the choruses. The blues, and your daily realities are in the details of the verses. The spiritual comes out in the choruses, which I got from Gospel music and the church."

Of course, if one listens the words, one finds that this is hardly the patriotic standard the right would like to present it as being.  Once again, I wonder if the irony is lost on those who would like to portray this as being "patriotic" while they talk about acts of insurrection which are clearly unconstitutional and illegal.

The thing is that the Right sees the gun control issue as a means to divert workers from voting according to their economic interests and that of their families. The Right sees it as a particularly clever way to prevent workers from following the candidate endorsements of their union, which are made based on economic interests of the members. Neal Knox, a former head of the National Rife Association (NRA), said as much:

"[The gun issue] is the one thing that will spin the blue-collar union member away from his union."

The NRA conducted a massive get-out-the-vote effort on behalf of George W. Bush. Chuck Cunningham, a former director of voter education for the Christian Coalition, led that effort for the NRA. Before working for the Christian Coalition, Cunningham was executive director of the anti-union New England Citizens for Right-to-Work.

Charlton Heston, former president of the NRA, supported the National Right-to-Work Committee in 1994 when it lobbied Congress to defeat S.55 / H.R.5 Anti-Strikebreaker Bill. This would have prohibited employers from permanently replacing striking workers (an act which is illegal in other industrialized countries). Heston appealed to union members to "put freedom first" and support NRA-endorsed candidates, and yet the right to strike is a most basic and essential freedom. Heston personally appealed to members of Congress to defeat pro-worker legislation that would prohibit strikebreakers and produced a video on behalf of the National Right-to-Work Committee, which called him their "world famous ally."

In 1996, Charlton Heston championed the most serious threat to the very existence of labor unions. He assisted the National Right-to-Work Committee in a $260,000 ad campaign to lobby Congress to pass a National Right-to-Work Bill which had been introduced. Right-to-Work legislation would prohibit unions from negotiating any union security clause in their contracts. Union membership would be totally voluntary, though all workers must receive the wages and benefits negotiated in the union contract and they must be legally represented in any grievances. It has nothing to do with a right to work, but is part of a larger corporate strategy to financially weaken and eventually eliminate unions. Now deceased, Heston was a very effective spokesman for the NRA in distracting workers from the Right’s real agenda.

Of course, one thing that propaganda does is short-circuit the reason.  Take things out of context and use them to stir up people who cannot think for themselves all the while calling those who do examine and question "sheeple".

Remove the right to keep an bear arms from the stated purpose of a well-regulated militia (and the actual constitutional framework that fits into) and something which makes sense suddenly becomes a black and white issue.  Those who are opposed to the fictional concept of gun rights are somehow "unAmerican" and against the Constitution, while those who believe in it and would wage war against the United States despite what Article III, Section iii says are "patriots".  What could be more nonsensical?

 But, what really sums this up is what Critic Greil Marcus wrote about the Song "Born in the USA": "Clearly the key to the enormous explosion of Bruce's popularity is the misunderstanding… He is a tribute to the fact that people hear what they want to hear." 

Tell 'em what they want to hear and fuck the truth.

BTW, thanks to the Wisconsin AFL-CIO and their book "The Right Wing" for the bit about the NRA and workers' issues.

1 comment:

  1. And of course, there is the issue of permission and royalties......wonder if Springsteen knew about this or gave his permission?

    Someone should alert him.